Secret City Summer Concerts Strive For Zero Waste

From left, Environmental Services Division Senior Office Specialist Joshua Levings, Zero Waste Team member and Environmental Sustainability Board member Dorothy Brown, Zero Waste Team Member Julia Ying and Los Alamos County Councilor James Robinson man one of the Zero Waste stations during the concert May 24. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/
Los Alamos Daily Post

People don’t often think about garbage once they toss it into a trash can.

Although the thought of that wrapper, plastic water bottle or Styrofoam plate disappears from their minds the fact is that piece of trash does not vanish. In fact, it gets collected, trucked 90 miles and paid to be deposited in a landfill, where it will remain part of a landscape of waste.

But what if that piece of trash did disappear? What if it never got chucked into the waste bin in the first place?

The Los Alamos County Zero Waste Team and Environmental Sustainability Board is putting this idea into action. They have implemented a zero-waste program during the Secret City Summer Concert Series. Every Friday night, 5-10:30 p.m. at Ashley Pond Park, the trash cans on the south side of the pond will be covered and concert goers will be directed to one of the three Zero Waste tents to sort their waste into trash, recycling or compost.

The goal, Environmental Services Division (ESD) Manager Angelica Gurule said, “is to bring awareness about how much waste is created and how we can be better stewards of our environment by not creating trash in the first place … or it could be composted or recycled, that last option should be trash.”

Ultimately, she said, the Zero Waste team wants the public to think outside the trash can and reduce waste.

With one concert under their belts, Gurule said the zero waste program is off to a great start. Of the 400 pounds of garbage collected May 24, 200 pounds or 50 percent was diverted from the landfill.

Not only were concert goers supportive to the program but the vendors have been, too. Although not required to be zero-waste, Gurule said vendors are encouraged to be zero-waste by offering compostable or recyclable materials.

As for the public, there are numerous ways they can cut down on waste such as bringing reusable water bottles, napkins and utensils, Gurule said. They can also bike or carpool to the concert or take Atomic City Transit.

While a lot of people were supportive of the program during the first concert, Gurule said the hope is to improve throughout the series.

“I just hope it continues to get better every Friday,” she said.

Los Alamos County Councilor James Robinson said he felt the program was a great idea.

“(It’s) trying to get these concerts to be zero waste,” he said. “It will be a great undertaking and it will be great to keep the material from going to the landfill.”

This is not the first zero waste event. Gurule said the Bear Festival and Earth Day Festival hosted by the Pajarito Environmental Education Center at the Los Alamos Nature Center were zero waste events.

The whole idea was inspired by the Phoenix Open, a golf tournament. The three-day event brings in 700,000 people and the whole tournament generates zero waste, Gurule said.

 By having this program locally, hopefully people’s attitude towards trash changes, ESD Senior Office Specialist Joshua Levings said.

“People are used to (handling trash) one way … and we’re trying to get them to change the way they think about trash,” he said.

Volunteers are welcomed to help operate the zero waste stations. If interested, go to or call 505.662.8163.

A volunteer helps a concert goer sort their trash. Courtesy photo